An Italian judge who refuses to hold hearings because there are crucifixes in the nation's courtrooms was convicted Friday of failing to carry out his official duties and sentenced to serve seven months in jail.
Judge Luigi Tosti said he would appeal the verdict, handed down by a court in the central Italian town of L'Aquila.
For months, Tosti has refused to hear cases in Camerino, another town in central Italy.
He has insisted that religious symbols have no place in a court of law, and says Italy's constitutional provisions on human rights back his argument.
Convicted defendants in Italy do not start serving sentences until the last of two appeals are exhausted, and usually first-time offenders who receive short sentences usually see the penalty suspended. Tosti was also banned from holding public for a year.
"I was convicted because I am a minor-league citizen compared to Catholics," Tosti said. "I could be an atheist or a Buddhist, it doesn't matter," said the judge, who declined to describe his religious beliefs because he contends that is a private matter.
Courtrooms in traditionally Roman Catholic Italy all have crucifixes on the wall behind the judge's bench. Another feature of Italian courtrooms is the motto "the law is equal for everyone," which is written in large letters.
Right-wing politicians in Premier Silvio Berlusconi's center-right coalition have blasted Tosti for his stand, but the judge says his campaign is not political at all.
Tosti said he did not attend Friday's hearing because courthouse officials refused to remove the crucifix, AP reported. V.A.